Fr. Paul MacNeil
5th Sunday of Lent - Deacon Gunther, March 25, 2023
There is a story about a little boy who was afraid of the dark. One night his mother asked him to go out to the back porch and bring her the broom. The little boy turned to his mother and said “Mama I don’t want to go out there it’s dark.” His mother smiled and said “You don’t have to be afraid of the dark dear, Jesus is out there. He’ll look after you and protect you.” The little boy then asked, “Are you sure he’s out there?” Yes, I’m sure. He is everywhere and he is always ready to help when you need him.” The little boy thought about it for a minute and then went to the back door and cracked it open just a little. And said, “Jesus If you’re out there would you please hand me the broom?”
In two weeks’ time, we will recall the death of Jesus. But today we are confronted with the death of Lazarus. We are being asked to think about death, a topic most of us would prefer not to think about. But we need to think about the little boy’s question “Jesus, are you out there in the dark?”
As Lent draws to a close the Church gives us the Gospel of the raising of Lazarus. At Christ’s word, the dead man comes forward, bound in burial cloths. A reminder that it is never too late for us to ask for new life that comes from Christ. There is no death, there is no loss, there are no sins, there is no corruption, that Christ’s powerful word cannot sweep away.
The raising of Lazarus from the dead is a prediction of the Resurrection of Jesus. He revealed himself as “the resurrection and the life.” This is also our hope, this is also our faith. That we too … will be raised … from the dead. We profess that faith each time we pray the Apostles Creed: and say “I believe … in the resurrection … of the body … and … life everlasting.”
It’s also very meaningful that we recall the raising of Lazarus at this point in Lent, since for several weeks now we have all tried like Lazarus to get closer to Christ, to embrace his spirit. We now look forward to Easter when Christ will rise from the dead, showing us the way to rise.
What does this Gospel story say to our hearts? It promises us that we can expect to rise with Him in glory after this earthly life. We get that directly from the words of Jesus when he tells Martha … “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”
Those who die will be brought to life just as Jesus died and rose to a new life. That means each of us will also have new life someday. This is the wondrous truth that we also celebrate at every Eucharist. This hope of new life is the heart of our faith and our central reason for living as Christians. In a few moments during the Communion Rite, at the breaking of the bread, Fr. Paul will drop a piece of the host into the Precious Blood, to symbolize the resurrection. He will quietly pray: “May this mingling of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring … eternal life … to us … who receive it.”
The little boy’s question “Jesus are you out there?” may also have been a question that Lazarus pondered. The Good News is that he was there for Lazarus and is there for you and for me. May we all look forward to the hour when Christ calls to every one of us … “come out” … just like he did when he called Lazarus.
Today’s readings are full of God’s mercy and compassion for humanity. The Gospel, in particular, is a beautiful expression of the intimacy of Jesus with our human condition and its salvation. That is one of the reasons the Bishops of Canada have chosen this Solidarity Sunday to assign the special collection to the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace. This organization supports development … and aid projects in the Global South. As well, they inform us Canadian Catholics about international social justice questions. When we see the victims of poverty, violence, hunger, oppression, or disasters, we are all moved and we want to help. We need to be the earthly arms and hands of Jesus. We may not be able to raise the dead as Jesus did but we can still give something of ourselves in the service of others.
Pope Francis describes that service to others when he noted in one of his Homilies: “So many people even today hope to have enough to eat. The planet has food for all but the will to share with everyone seems to be lacking. To prepare the table for all and to ask that there be one table for all. Doing whatever we can so that everyone has food. But also reminding the world’s powerful that God will call them to be judged one day. And it will be demonstrated whether they have truly tried to provide food for Him in each person. And whether they have acted in order that the environment would not be destroyed but would be able to produce this food.”
Please give generously to the Development and Peace collection.
May God Bless you.